The Chicago Blues AllStars: Keeping the Blues Alive with Health Care

Exerpt from

Some say the blues is a dying art form. They contend that once all the living masters of the genre are gone, the blues will die with them. Of course, there are those who take an opposing view, pointing to a new generation of artists stepping up and reinventing the blues, carrying it to new, receptive audiences.

One thing is certain though; every day, the blues community loses members to disease and suffering that was preventable had it been treated early on. Every time we lose a musician this way, a piece of the blues community dies with them. The shame of this is, these losses are ultimately, so unnecessary. If only these people, who are our friends and family, our mentors, and our neighbors, had been able to access health care.

Frequently, low-income populations are most under served when it comes to obtaining and accessing actual health care, as well as health insurance. Within this population, lack of obtaining and accessing health care is extremely prevalent in the African American community. These are the musicians we all know, love, and admire. These are the people that are keeping the blues alive, passing it to today’s standard bearers, and tomorrow’s masters.

This sounds like a problem with a simple remedy: Inform under served communities about available programs and insurance, assist them in applying to these programs, and then follow up.

If only things were that simple. This is a multi-faceted problem, with numerous factors that contribute to preventing access to health care for this particular population. Any solution with the slightest chance of success must address these factors realistically, and comprehensively.

What factors? First, is the ability to afford actual healthcare. Second, is the necessity of accessing health care, if only for preventative measures, on a regular basis, to preclude minor health issues becoming life threatening concerns. Third, the lifestyle of most musicians is not conducive to maintaining good health, frequently consisting of poor diet, poor sleep habits, frequent stress due to uncertain income stability, and possibly significant alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse.

One group that is making a difference in the blues community, are the Chicago Blues All-Stars. This review-style blues band has been highlighting and addressing health care in the blues community for several years now. Having battled their own difficulties, band members offer empathy, and speak to these issues from the strength and wisdom of experience.

One example of how the Chicago Blues All Stars accomplish was the first annual Blues Today Chicago Summit held at Buddy Guy’s Legends in June last year. CBAS founding member Dr. Dan Ivankovich, himself a gigging musician and renowned orthopedic surgeon, organized the summit, along with several noted members of the Chicago blues community including industry insiders, local musicians, producers, and journalists.

Several speakers related their experiences with difficulties regarding health care and their own well-being. Dr. Dan Ivankovich, aka Chicago Slim, spoke of his love for the blues, and his desire to help his fellow blues musicians obtain the health care they so desperately need.

Dr. Dan has said many times, “We’re not interested in honoring these musicians after they’re dead and gone; blues musicians are the lifeblood of the genre. Without musicians, there’s no blues…”

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